Early Bear Season Harvest Numbers

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Licensed black bear hunters took to the woods of western and central Massachusetts during the September 3 through 20 early season and emerged with a new statewide record of 142 bruins with a one week season in November still to come. The previous record, set in 1995, was 134 for the entire season. Last year's harvest was 116 bears.

Preliminary figures indicate sixty-three animals were taken in Berkshire County, 39 in Franklin, 21 in Hampshire and 19 in Hampden Counties. No bear were taken in Worcester County despite an increasing bear population in that region.

"There are several factors that contribute to this new record", said MassWildlife's Bear Project Leader, Jim Cardoza. "Overall, the bear population is rising, which provides more opportunities for hunters." Food availability and food location played important roles according to Cardoza. "Farmers in the Connecticut Valley region cut their corn much later this year, due to the rainy growing season. As a consequence, bears spent more time in cornfields." The number of bears taken in areas of wild foods was nearly equal to the number taken in cornfields or orchards. Meanwhile, in the Berkshires, a significantly lower number of bears were taken in corn or orchards, due to an abundance of wild soft mast (fruits and berries).

Rifles, muzzleloaders, archery equipment and certain handguns were permitted during the September season. The largest bear for the season was taken by a bow and arrow. A boar (male) weighing 421 pounds ungutted, was taken by Michael E. Brasie of Pittsfield. The largest field dressed bear was taken by rifle was another boar at 325 pounds taken by John Fitzgerald of Otis.